Friday, 2 December 2016

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey
Fig 2: Poster; Ape-man and Space-man discovering Monolith
Fig 1: Film Poster

'If you understand 2001 completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered.' - Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick's 2011: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a classic, sci-fi and fantasy film. The story starts with showing a group of apes, who are struggling to find food. After the mysterious Monolith appears the apes' mind starts to develop and they learn how to use tools and create weapons with them. The next scene shows Dr, Heywood Floyd who arrives to a spaceship interested in taking part in another space mission; he refuses to provide about with details of the mission. He learns about the black slab they have found on the Moon, proving previous intelligence. He and a group of scientists and astronauts set on a journey to see the object. The researchers finding the black object which sends off a strong high sound far into the open space. Following this there is an 18 months time skip, David Bowman, Frank Poole and three other people (who were hibernating, to be woken up when they reach the planet) were on the way to Saturn on a new mission. They were helped by an artificial intelligence, who maintains the ship and a part of the crew, called HAL 9000. Everything seems to go fine, when HAL reports an error in one of the units of the ship, which is a vital part of it, as  it sends the messages to Earth. After replacing it and investigating the part, Bowman and Poole learn that there is nothing wrong with the piece, and after another report from HAL claiming that the replacement unit is failing too, the two men get suspicious and call Earth; acknowledging that something is wrong with HAL. A few incidents follow this and as Poole tries to replace the dysfunctional unit, he is killed by a collision. Bowman is upset and wonders if HAL could have done it purposely and after an argument with the robot he decides to wake the other three members, only to realise that the spaceship's entrances has been open and he needs to find oxygen. As he saves his own life, the other three members are killed, as HAL disconnects the hibernation machines. This leaves Bowman with no choice, but to disconnect HAL, and that is the moment when he discovers the real aim of the mission and that HAL has been feeling guilty about keeping it as a secret and when threatened to be shut off, he feels the need to defend himself as if his 'life' is at sake. While disconnecting the robot, HAL keeps repeating ' I can feel it' and 'I'm afraid', then asking if Bowman wants to hear a song he had learned from his creator and as approved by the man he sings it as he is shut off. After that Bowman takes one of the extra pods and tries to reach the slab, which swallows him and he is never heard from again. He is racing through colourful star field and this process is repeated again ending in him arriving to a room which seems like a hotel or a mansion. When he looks into the mirror he is aged and then finds two other versions of himself, who are even older, like its his future. the Monolith appears in the room and he becomes an immortal without a body 'in the appearance of a fetus and returns to the solar system, watching over Earth.
Fig 3: Final scene with the Monolith
This 1968 film by Kubrick can be very confusing and misunderstood by audiences, as some of the scenes might not seem to make sense and many people gives up on understanding the movie simply questioning what is it actually trying to say. The opinions about it were very vary and it can leave a person not really knowing what their opinion about it is right after finishing the more that two hour long (very slow) movie. 'Somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring' (New York Times, s.d.).

This movie explores human development, as for how we evolved and what the future could hide from us, what is going to be our next step. '"2001" is a story of evolution.'...'Evolution then enabled humankind to reach the moon's surface, where yet another monolith is found, one that signals the monolith placers that humankind has evolved that far. Now a race begins between computers (HAL) and human (Bowman) to reach the monolith placers. The winner will achieve the next step in evolution, whatever that may be.' (Cousins, s.d.) This suggest that the whole movie is simply about evolution. However other say that the sci-fi movie is also telling us about artificial intelligence. Similarly to previous films about robot versus human this movie explores the fear of computers developing or 'evolving' their own minds and will turn against humans and overpower us. 
Fig 4: Ape-man and fetus Bowman; evolution
Kubrick's movies known to be a bit 'cold' and not very interactive with the audience, could say 'emotionless'. In the film the characters do not get to at attached to the viewer, so when they die one by one, the people are not very emotional about it and they can easily let it go, without being utterly upset. However, at the scene when Bowman disconnects HAL, and the computer starts to sing 'Daisy Bell', his voice sounding very emotional or even sad, as his voice deepening and slows down, meaning him slowly dying, leaves a chilling mark in the viewer; making it one of the most memorable and haunting scenes of all time. This simple display of emotion and understanding of his confusion and guilt draws to audience closet to the computer character ' HAL 9000, the film’s most unexpectedly sympathetic character' (Kermode, 2014).
Fig 5: Bowman disconnecting HAL 9000
Fig 6: HAL 9000

'2001: A Space Odyssey is arguably the first film to use sound design in the way that we understand it today...The overall ‘vision’ of the sound and music as it combines with the visuals, is nonetheless recognisable as sound design.' (s.d., 2010) The music and the sounds in the film are considered to be iconic and mainly chosen by Kubrick himself. Music usually gets intense at moments to prepare the audience for something that is about to happen but can suddenly become very calm. The music seems to fit very well with the events and usually fits to the moment; classic music when astronauts are shown and gets incredibly noisy and piercing when the Monolith is in shot. It can be uncomfortable to listen to the sound at the Monolith shots, as the volume gets loud and the vocals start to change to creepy and could say similar to whistling wind.

During the film, the audience is often presented with a wide angle shot, which often shows huge open space. At the beginning, where the ape-men are still shown, the camera tends to focus on the landscape a lot and show numerous images of sunsets or sunrises. When the events happen inside the spaceship, everything seems to be symmetric, and the camera tends to take a long shot, staying at one perspective for a longer time that usual. The corridors are very long, showing the size of the spaceship, and as people walk around, different levels and floors are spinning in different directions. At the last scene, when Bowman is racing through the colourful star field, the colours get really intense and there is lots of flashing, as different shapes, and colours rush past the camera. The colours, lighting and camera angles used to represent mood are interesting and are able to describe what is happening, for example when Bowman disconnects HAL, the space is claustrophobic, often zooms in on the man's face and the dominating lighting colour is a bright, vibrant red. At some moments the camera seems to be shaky, which was intentional, as it tries to intensify moments and exaggerate movements. 
Fig 7: Landscape
Fig 8: Symmetry
Fig 9: Colourful star field
Overall, 2001: A Space Odyssey considered to be a great creation and is affecting the movies following it, setting a high expectation for sci-fi movies involving space. The critiques and opinions about it by audiences are usually either saying that it is a fantastic movie with many meanings and lots of arising questions; while the other half of people are simply very confused and not understanding why it is said to be an iconic movie. The pace of the movie is highly critiqued, and can make people become very bored and just looking forward for the credit scene, but many agree that the visual set and the overall environment are incredible and keeps the viewer interested.
Fig 10: Monolith


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1 comment:

  1. You have made some very interesting observations here, Greta :)
    Just be wary of spending too much time giving a blow-by-blow account of the story; just a short synopsis would do the job.
    If you don't know the name of the author you are quoting, you use 's.n' ...'s.d' is for the unknown date :)